Overwhelmed! Help!

Joined May 13, 2010
so here's the skinny--

I've been cooking on and off for about 15 years, was out of the kitchen for five, but working as a server at the best restaurant I'd ever worked.  A line position came open, and I jumped at it.  I struggled, having not honed my knives or skills for five years or better, but rocked it out in the end.

Recently, I was promoted to Sous.  I was just hitting my stride on the line, now I have twice as much responsibility and double the hours.  I have never been the most productive or strongest line cook in the kitchen, but I have other skills that lend themselves to leadership. 

My dilemma is this:  I find myself struggling when I DO work a station.  I am not working clean, I am easily overwhelmed, and constantly need help.  I am afraid of losing the trust and respect of my chef and my peers, in addition to being exhausted.

How can i keep myself from becoming overwhelmed, stay focused, and not lose my job? 
Joined Apr 3, 2008
The main issue I have found is attention to the little stuff. If your prep is completely done then you should have no worries. It's the running around to get a cucumber cause you didn't make enough garnish or such that causes little delays that add up to being in the weeds. My last place I had 4 inch half pans doubled up for chicken and burgers and steaks one for the line, one for the walk-in speed rack. If I ran out I didn't have to leave the line, I could hand the empty to my dishwasher and he would get me my refill. Total time wasted cause I ran out of something, 20 seconds.

Second, if you do not have the menu memorised your in trouble. I mean it. Every little thing. Cooking is half mind half body. If your brain doesn't know what it's going to do your body will falter and take longer to get it done. Best of luck.
Joined Jul 3, 2008
If your mise is always done, and adequate, then sump'n else is up.  Like Gunnar said - probably don't know how to cook the menu from memory. 

When you say you 'always need help' can you describe that in more detail - help with exactly what?
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Gunnar is 100 correct. A trick I always used  was the minute the order came in either dupes or verbal. throw it on the fire take it off when 1/2 way.Then you always have it ready to go on a fast notice by the expediter or server.  I used to put everything on sizzlers and it was ready to roll.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
Gunnar hit it on the head...  you have have have have HAVE to be organized and if you are not the weeds will be creeping up on you pretty fast.

I work in a breakfast place and well we can't part cook eggs but what I do is simply shut up and cook.. once the tickets pile up I shut up, read ahead and cook so when the KM is asking for a plate I can tell him where it is (most of the time in my hand) and we do not end up in the weeds or worse.  That works well when I am on eggs but if it is not me on eggs and someone else things get a little sketchy but they make it through...


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
You need to train with the person doing the station.  Yeah you are sous, but even when I was exec. I sometimes had to get a refresher when I went to another kitchen in the building or a different hotel.
Joined Jun 22, 2006
Hmm, I seem to have organization problems big time also. I used to be on the cold side, apps and deserts really (it was a really small place with the 3 of us, Chef, sous and I). I never could figure out how to properly arrange things so that my work space wasnt cluttered up. Like for example, a salad dish would have all its components in one tray (or ill try to squeeze it into that one tray), but assuming there are 4 orders for that one salad, its 4 plates, everythings out on the work station and plus my chopping board im nearly out of space. If another order came in that was different i just had to hustle those orders and push that tray aside, bring out the other tray andbefore you can say 'order in', im in a mess.

Anyone have some advice on these sort of situations?
Joined May 13, 2010
Wow.  Thanks for all of your help and feedback.  I had a sit-down with my CDC and exec on Friday.  Went well.  I had a chance to express my concerns and frustrations, only to find out that we are all on the same page.  Fact is, we've been unusually busy and short-staffed,  and they were very aware that I felt unfocused.  They both assured me that they had complete faith in my abilities, and gave me suggestions about prioritizing tasks and what production to be focused on.  Helped a ton, and I got to rock out Saute, my favorite station, on a busy Saturday night.  All-in-all, a great weekend, and many lessons learned.

I completely agree that the key to working any station is 1) knowing the menu, 2) being prepared, 3) staying organized.  When I walk in the door tomorrow morning, I'll have a totally different focus and a new approach.

Thanks again for your feedback everyone.

Joined Feb 10, 2010
It's great that you've been encouraged again.  I often have felt like you.  What really helped me, was carrying a pen and paper.  I wrote down notes constantly.  Stuff I missed, what I did well, how to set up the section, what to prep in which order.  To begin with I went right back to basics and did work flow sheets for individual menu items.  

I went into work on days off, so I could write a list of what needed to be done when I was back at work.  This allowed me to mull over that list at home, and think what I'd do first, second etc... and what I'd delegate to other staff.  I still carry around a pen and notepad, but use is way less.
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